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Tim Plant (CEO, QBE Insurance) and Winston Headford (QBE secondee) on the Cape York Executive Visit, 2015.

Photo: David Rennie

I was a Sydney girl, born and bred in the

western suburbs. Before my secondment

I had absolutely nil understanding of

the Indigenous way of life or Indigenous

culture and the problems and issues they

faced. Now I’ve seen it first-hand.



CAPE YORK 2003 AND 2008–09

The opportunity to live and work in an Indigenous

community for several weeks or months changes

people’s views about Indigenous Australia.



Adlington articulated the value of the secondment

program in challenging misconceptions and

unconscious biases:

I think you grow up with certain perspectives of

Indigenous culture conveyed to you, whether it

be through your parents or the media or friends

or school life. But it’s not until you’re dealing with

99% Indigenous people that you realise what

those embedded things are and think, ‘Okay,

that’s not right.’

For Peter Rixon, who works in the Australian Public

Service, his experience of working in an Indigenous

organisation in Shepparton, Victoria, resulted in a

‘180-degree’ shift in perceptions. He explained:

I went on secondment having had negative

experiences of Indigenous communities in the

past. Before Jawun, my suspicions were fed by

what I now know to be ill-formed stereotypes.

Thanks to the Jawun program I have a very

different perspective today. I understand now

the legitimacy of Indigenous aspiration; I see the

need to allow cultural expression. Until I went on

secondment and had this immersion opportunity,

I would never have become an advocate of the

Indigenous community and its ambitions.

For most secondees, their change in perceptions

begins with an

increased awareness

of modern-day

realities for Indigenous people—both the struggles

and the gains. John Williams from Westpac was

seconded in 2013 to The Glen Central Coast Alcohol

and Drug Rehabilitation Centre, where the majority

of clients are Indigenous. ‘I didn’t learn how to play

a didgeridoo,’ he said, ‘but I did learn a lot about

how people fall into drugs.’